James Cleverly answers MPs’ questions to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in connection with his Middle East and North Africa Ministerial portfolio.
Climate Change: International Co-operation
What recent progress the Government have made through international co-operation on tackling climate change. 
As the host of COP26 and the president of the G7 next year, securing greater global ambition on climate change is a diplomatic priority for this Government. Ministerial colleagues in the FCDO and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary regularly raise this subject, and he has done so, including with Japan and South Korea earlier this year. This strategy is working. China has pledged to become a carbon-neutral country by 2060 and Japan and South Korea have committed to become net zero by 2050. On 7 November, the Prime Minister appointed my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Anne-Marie Trevelyan) as the international champion on adaptation and resilience for COP26.
My constituents in Barrow and Furness have welcomed the Government’s focus on renewable energy, but it is clear that a global approach is required to deal with this crisis. As such, can my right hon. Friend reassure the House that the Department is working flat out on COP26 and the climate ambition summit to make it a success?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the answer to this lies in global co-operation. The United Kingdom is leading from the front, and we are pressing foreign Governments for greater action and higher commitments at the climate ambition summit on 12 December. Our posts across the globe have engaged with host Governments, businesses and civil society on climate change issues ahead of COP26, and we will continue to do so in the run-up to the climate ambition summit this December.
Climate change is going to drive the future crisis that humanity is facing. Parts of the world will get wetter and parts drier, with all the world more climatically unstable, population growth and resource scarcity. Climate change is going to be at the heart of every crisis that we are going to face.
The UK is undertaking the integrated review of foreign and defence policy right now. I will be grateful for an assurance from the Minister that climate change will be high on the agenda of that review, and that he will take good note of the Scottish National party’s suggestions, which we submitted to the review in good faith. We all need to work together on this, because climate change is a crisis facing humanity as a whole.
The hon. Member is right to highlight the fact that climate change is going to be an important factor in the foreign policy of all countries around the world. We recognise that in terms of pressure on food production and resources, the potential implications and the conflicts that may come about because of that. That is why climate change and our response to it, development and diplomacy will all go hand in hand through the integrated review.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reassurance. I suggest that he has a read of the SNP submission to the integrated review. There are some very good ideas in there, not least to maintain development at the heart of climate mitigation and to fund it properly. If I were a Minister in a Government who stood on a manifesto in December to maintain 0.7%, I would be considering my position were that to be walked back upon. Is he considering his?
I am very proud of the fact that the United Kingdom is and will remain one of the most generous aid donors in the world. We have focused relentlessly on ensuring that the work of the United Kingdom Government across all Departments focuses on addressing the poorest in the world, as well as the implications of climate change.
What recent assessment the Government have made of the (a) political and (b) humanitarian situation in Yemen. 
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is dire. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary warned in September, Yemen has never looked more likely to slide into famine than it does now. Almost 16 million people—53% of the population—are currently unable to afford food. In response, the UK is rapidly disbursing the £200 million-worth of aid commitment this year. We fully support UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, who is seeking the parties’ agreement to proposals for a nationwide ceasefire and formal talks.
Would my right hon. Friend give us some indication of the progress of the UN efforts?
We strongly support the UN’s efforts and we regularly engage with all parties that have an interest in Yemen. On 18 October, I spoke to the spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam about the peace process and the Safer oil tanker; on 6 October, I spoke to the Yemen Foreign Minister about the progress; and on 17 September the Foreign Secretary co-hosted a P5+ ministerial meeting to encourage all parties to engage fully with the proposals that the UN has put forward.
Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Defenders
What discussions he had with the Government of Saudi Arabia at the G20 on human rights defenders in that country. 
Our strong relationship with Saudi Arabia allows us to raise human rights concerns through a range of ministerial and diplomatic channels. Ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit, I raised human rights concerns with the Saudi ambassador, including the continued detention of at least five women human rights defenders. The UK also signed the UN Human Rights Council joint statement in September calling for the release of all political detainees. We will continue to raise human rights concerns with the Saudi authorities.
Women in Saudi Arabia now have the right to drive, but some of those who fought for that basic equality remain behind bars. The UK is, as the Minister suggests, Saudi Arabia’s closest European ally, but does he understand why the detention of women human rights defenders by the Saudi Arabian authorities is an important test of our Government’s commitment to defending human rights? Will he call on them to release these women and all political prisoners immediately?
We welcome the improved situation for women in Saudi and encourage the Saudis to continue steps in that direction. As I have already said, we engage on this specific issue at both ministerial and official level and will continue to urge the Saudis to go further.
The Minister knows full well that the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is terrible, and many people believe it is getting worse. Now that the G20 summit has been held, what precisely do the Government intend to do to put pressure on the Government of Saudi Arabia to release human rights activists, including women’s rights activists who are being held for fighting for freedoms that we in this country take for granted?
I spoke to the Saudi ambassador about this very issue on 16 November. As I say, it is important that we recognise when progress has been made. Saudi is embarking on a reform programme and we are seeking to ensure that that goes further and faster, but as I said in response to the previous question, we do engage at ministerial level and at official level to encourage the release of women’s human rights defenders.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference
What the Government’s priorities are for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference in 2021. 
The United Kingdom’s priority is to reinforce the non-proliferation treaty as a vital part of the international security architecture and to highlight the UK’s strong track record across all three pillars of the treaty. Building on the successful 2020 UK-led P5 process, we will work to promote transparency between nuclear and non-nuclear states and submit a national report to highlight our achievement in support of the NPT. The UK will also emphasise the important role of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in achieving the sustainable development goals.
Given that the UK is a signatory to this treaty, does the Minister agree that the logical next step would be for the UK now to become a signatory to the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, taking the lead from the First Minister of Wales, who has welcomed this treaty? In that way, we in the UK can take a lead internationally to create a future throughout the world without nuclear weapons.
The UK has reduced by half its nuclear arsenal since the end of the cold war, but we will not sign or ratify the prohibition of nuclear weapons. We do not believe that this treaty brings us any closer to a world without nuclear weapons, and it will not improve the security environment.
I hope the Minister will agree with me that the UK must seize the opportunity of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty review conference early next year to push multilateral nuclear disarmament back up the global agenda and take the steps necessary to bring about a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. With major non-signatories, such as India and Pakistan, still remaining, will the Minister outline how the Government plan to encourage those countries and others to commit to signing the treaty?
I think that everyone from all parts of this House will share the desire to see a world without nuclear weapons. However, we do need to ensure that at no point do we compromise the United Kingdom’s defence. We worked at the P5 conference of NPT nuclear weapon states that took place in February 2020 to demonstrate our engagement with the wider non-proliferation treaty community, and we will continue to work on our priorities: transparency, the UK national report, disarmament verification and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
My right hon. Friend is aware of my concern about the economic collapse that the pandemic has caused in some of the world’s most important conservation areas and the resulting increase in poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in many areas. Could he reassure me that, over the coming weeks and months, he will target more of our aid budget at helping communities in those areas, protecting wildlife and tackling the illegal trade, which is damaging so much of our conservation? 
The full extent of the impact of covid-19 on the illegal wildlife trade is not known, but my right hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. We know that it is a serious crime undertaken by organised criminal networks. We have contributed £250 million to the Global Environment Facility, which runs the world’s biggest programme to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. He will understand that I am not able to give full details of future ODA spending commitments at this point.
Tomorrow is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, as declared by the United Nations. British citizen Caitlin McNamara has spoken publicly about being seriously sexually assaulted by Sheikh Nayhan, the United Arab Emirates Minister of tolerance. Has the Foreign Secretary raised that case with his counterparts in the UAE and demanded action on it? Have the Government looked at using Magnitsky sanctions, given that this gentleman is based in the UK and has property here? What are the Government doing in this case to show that it is not just words but deeds that matter when it comes to gender-based violence? 
The FCDO takes all reports of sexual assaults abroad extremely seriously. Miss McNamara had a deeply distressing experience in the UAE earlier this year. Consular officials from the embassy supported her when she reported the incident to them, and the FCDO consular staff are standing by to do everything they can to support Miss McNamara and her legal team.